Bertone’s masterpiece: Lamborghini Miura
Wanted: Expert in metal couture to clothe what will probably become the greatest supercar the world will ever see.
Well, such an ad never made it to the classified section of La Stampa in 1966 but Ferruccio Lamborghini achieved much the same result when he took his new V12 supercar –the first with a mid mounted engine- to the Turin motor show and put it on display. Naked.
The story goes that, although all the big design houses were clamoring to clothe the naked beast, it wasn’t until the end of the show, when the crowds had dispersed, that Nuccio Bertone even ventured over for a look.
A somewhat peeved Ferruccio appeared at his side and asked “ Do you not wish to design the body for my new car?”
He did, and his reputation – as well as his lack of any permant alliance with Ferrari- got him to the top of the list. A few months later with orders and deposits coming in for the new car Bertone was given the contract to clothe the P400 GT.
What followed was the creation of a classic in car design that many still feel is unsurpassed.
As the photos here show the finished product followed the angularity and wedge style design peculiar to House Bertone. Certainly it was influenced by the Ford GT40 and its mid engine layout, but Bertone went further in translating the radical new engine placement into the fabric of the design.
What the Bertone team saw was that it offered a new ratio in the fundamentals of car design, it allowed for a different position of the cockpit – further forward- that also meant that the front and rear overhangs could be played with.
In short these changes made for a visual breakthrough in the design of the luxury car brand.
The mid engine was not just about looks, it counterbalanced the superpower engineering of the car allowing it to perform at its incredible speeds (170mph, 0-60 in 6.7 seconds) with a level of traction and balance of cornering unseen in a road car.
This mix of handling, performance and breathtaking design meant that when it went on show in bright orange at Geneva Salon de l’automobile in 1966 it stunned the public, press and the industry. Especially Ferrari.
This car elevated Lamborghini to (and for many put them over) the level of their giant Italian competitor Ferrari, who responded by ditching their now outdated front mounted engines for the new world of the mid mount.
With its level of influence and its undoubted importance to the canon of luxury car design it is not surprising that much ink has been spilled over exactly whose pen it poured from.
There are three magicians’ hats in the ring from which the Miura pen work could have been pulled, and each has been solely given the prestige at some time.
Of course there is the ringmaster himself the great Nuccio Bertone, his chief designer Giugiaro and the young pretender Marcello Gandini (who was to become one of the great designers of all time.)
The true story, it seems, is that each of them had their own part to play in the trick.
Giugiaro, who was being poached by Pininfarina and who was subsequently kept in the dark about the identity of the manufacturer collaborator, made the initial sketches. It seems it was his sketches that sold Ferruccio Lamborghini on the initial design.
As the contract was confirmed however Pininfarina got their man, leaving Bertone short a design chief for the new project. He drafted in his best talent, the 27-year-old protégé Gandini, and it was he that did the detailed design work on the Miura.
In an interview in the early 90s Bertone recalled how he had constantly made suggestions to his designer about improvements and tweaks to the car only to be constantly ignored by the younger man.
However it seems that the old sorcerer took the curtain call over his apprentice. In the last weeks before production with Gandini on holiday Nuccio himself made some of those changes to the younger mans design that were quickly immortalised on the assembly line.
It speaks much of the man that he never let on what his changes were to what is surely one of the greatest garments ever made.
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